Official Statements 2012
Assad Regime Responsible for Haoula Massacre, U.S. Says (May 29)
Washington — The United States joined several other nations in expelling a senior Syrian diplomat in response to the massacre of more than 100 men, women and children in the Syrian village of Haoula on May 25, and says it will continue its efforts to increase pressure on Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
According to the United Nations, 108 people were shot and killed at close range in the village, located near the city of Homs. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said May 29 that the responsibility for the massacre rests “firmly at the feet of the Assad regime” and its militia group, the Shabiha.
Nuland said Syrian charge d'affaires Zuheir Jabbour was called to the State Department earlier May 29 and informed by Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman that “he is no longer welcome in the United States” and had 72 hours to depart the country.
Along with the United States, Australia, Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, and Germany have expelled senior Syrian diplomats in the wake of the massacre.
“We took this action in response to the … absolutely indefensible, vile, despicable massacre against innocent children, women, shot at point-blank range by regime thugs, the Shabiha, aided and abetted by the Iranians, who were actually bragging about it over the weekend,” she said, referring to a statement by the deputy head of Iran’s Quds Force “saying publicly that they were proud of the role that they had played in training and assisting the Syrian forces, and look what this has wrought.”
She said the Shabiha force, created by the Assad regime, is made of up of young men who are hired to “indiscriminately wreak vengeance and do this kind of hand-to-hand violence” as was seen in Haoula, and it is modeled on Iran’s Basij force, using the tactics that the Basij deployed to suppress the Iranian people after the disputed presidential election in 2009.
In an earlier statement, Nuland also noted that the assault on the civilians involved “tanks and artillery — weapons that only the regime possesses,” and that there were reports that many families were summarily executed in their homes by regime forces.
“We hold the Syrian government responsible for this slaughter of innocent lives. This massacre is the most unambiguous indictment to date of the Syrian government’s flagrant violations of its U.N. Security Council obligations under resolutions 2042 and 2043 along with the regime’s ongoing threat to peace and security,” Nuland said.
Speaking to reporters, Nuland welcomed Russia’s apparent willingness to have a full investigation into the massacre, and said she hoped it could be a turning point in Russia’s approach to Syria’s 15-month conflict.
“We think it's undisputable what that investigation is going to show. It's going to show that these were regime-sponsored thugs who went into villages, went into homes and killed children at point-blank range and their parents, and that the responsibility goes right back to the Assad regime,” she said.
On May 26, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the massacre and said, “Those who perpetrated this atrocity must be identified and held to account.”
Clinton said the United States stands in solidarity with the Syrian people and those who took to the streets across the country to peacefully denounce the killings in Haoula, and said the Obama administration will work with the international community to “intensify our pressure on Assad and his cronies, whose rule by murder and fear must come to an end.”